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Transactional Lawyers Negotiate the Deals That Make Showbiz Grow

These lawyers rep the hottest names, the biggest properties, the funniest web series, and the most popular video games, and probably the next big thing

Legal Impact Report

Daniel H. Black
Co-Chair, West Coast entertainment and media division, Greenberg Traurig GWU, 1976
Black’s clients include the BBC, Reelz Channel, the Broadcast Film Critics Assn., Qualcomm, Pilgrim Studios, AEG Live and Microsoft. “The opportunity presented as part of Microsoft’s “Halo 4” videogame rollout was particularly special,” he says. “The attendant live-action Web series, Forward Unto Dawn, was a key step in the evolution of using different media platforms to exploit intellectual property while maximizing revenue.” Black also negotiated Kathie Lee Gifford’s deal to continue co-hosting Today.

Harry “Skip” Brittenham
Senior Partner, Ziffren Brittenham UCLA, 1970
Long considered one of the top showbiz attorneys, this Air Force vet and avid fly fisherman was involved in three-quarters of a billion dollars in financing last year for companies such as Legendary Pictures, DreamWorks, Skydance, Working Title and Reel FX, while servicing a top-shelf list of individual clients that includes Harrison Ford, Ridley Scott and Eddie Murphy. He also serves on the board of DreamWorks Animation. In October, the media-shy attorney (“I don’t talk to the press,” he says. “The clients are the stars.”) released the aptly named Anomaly, a sci-fi graphic novel that producer (and client) Joe Roth is developing as a film.

P. John Burke
Partner, head of entertainment group, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld
Southwestern, 1976; NYU, 1977

Marissa Roman Griffith
Partner, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld
Stanford, 1993
The team repped Bank of America and JP Morgan on a credit facility that financed Content Partners’ acquisition of 50% of the CSI TV franchise from Goldman Sachs; repped Trinity Opportunities and Shikumen Capital Management in a $275 million mezzanine debt and equity arrangement with Village Roadshow — “the most challenging deal last year,” notes Burke, which won the Private Equity Deal of the Year kudo at the 2013 Intl. Financial Law Review Asia Awards. Other recent deals: repped Media Rights Capital in financing Ted and Netflix series House of Cards; Comerica Bank and Union Bank on various revolving credit facilities providing more than $200 million of entertainment financing; and financiers on multiple, single-project loans in excess of $450 million. Notes Griffith: “The first quarter of 2013 has definitely been more robust than the first quarter of the past few years.”

Stan Coleman
Shareholder, Weintraub Tobin Chediak Coleman Grodin
Columbia, 1969
Coleman has worked in all media. He closed Diane Lane’s deal to star in Warner Bros.’ upcoming Superman reboot, “Man of Steel”; David Mamet’s deal to write and direct HBO original film “Spector,” the story of the Phil Spector trial; Zosia Mamet’s deal for HBO’s “Girls”; and Clara Mamet’s deal for ABC’s “Neighbors.” Coleman also set up franchise-size properties with six different studios for Scholastic. He repped Random House in three deals: a film production with Focus, a TV venture with FremantleMedia and a merchandising pact with UTA. “The movie and television businesses have always been a step ahead theater and publishing in recognizing and addressing contemporary ideas in dealmaking,” says Coleman. “I have been making a conscientious effort at modernizing the customs and practices of those two legacy businesses.”

George Cooke
Partner, entertainment and media
Manatt, Phelps & Phillips
Harvard, 1978
Cooke’s negotiations and advice helped ensure that U-verse customers continue to watch AMC shows such as “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad” when the network raised its fees. He advised AT&T in its deals with CBS and HBO, negotiating a carriage renewal agreement with CBS and obtaining Internet distribution rights for HBO and Cinemax. In January, Cooke once again helped AT&T, reaching an agreement with Disney that expands U-verse customers’ access to content on multiple platforms. In 2012, he helped Research in Motion acquire motion picture and television product for distribution on its new BlackBerry operating system. “I believe that through a combination of industry knowledge and deal experience I’m able to help my media clients successfully close complex transactions in a volatile content distribution marketplace,” says Cooke.

Jay L. Cooper
Vice chair, global media and entertainment practice; co-chair, West Coast entertainment division, Greenberg Traurig
DePaul, 1951
Cooper’s client list includes Katy Perry, Jerry Seinfeld, Mel Brooks and Sheryl Crow. He’s known for negotiating their deals for stage, screen — big and small — and online, including Seinfeld’s Web series “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” and two HBO specials for Brooks. He also helped acquire rights to the Beach Boys’ catalog for a Broadway musical. “I am most proud when it is the cumulative body of deals during the year, particularly at the time of a major transition to the new and varied platforms,” says Cooper.

Jacqueline Eckhouse
Partner, Sloss Eckhouse LawCo
Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, 1996
Repping Participant Media’s new cable channel and Jake Kasdan’s Fox deal for “New Girl,” Eckhouse ramped up her activity in digital media. “We’re working with talent and outlets to negotiate new models for creative control and exploitation of content in multimedia markets,” she says, referring to the protection of creative content. She negotiated new media deals for Kevin Smith’s SmodCo, Fast and Furious franchise director Justin Lin’s YouTube channel Yomyomf and Richard Linklater’s new Hulu series “Up to Speed.”

Craig Emanuel
Partner, chair of entertainment department, chair of talent practice group, Loeb & Loeb
Monash U., 1981
The man who reps talent powerhouses like Ryan Murphy and Daniel Day-Lewis has always been drawn to entertainment, working on film sets as a tyke in Australia. When Emmanuel arrived in California in 1985 he dove into the legal space, covering areas such as high-end film and TV deals and advertising projects. This year, he was able to see one client take home an Oscar. “Representing Daniel in his deal on “Lincoln” was one of the proudest moments of my career,” says Emmanuel. “And repping Ryan for over 16 years and seeing that he has three shows on the air that couldn’t be more diverse is amazing.”

David B. Feldman
Partner, Bloom Hergott Diemer Rosenthal LaViolette Feldman Schenkman & Goodman
UC Berkeley, 1990
Feldman has steered notable negotiations for his clients, including helmer-producer Bryan Singer’s deal on “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” Stephen Moyer’s renegotiation on “True Blood,” Krysten Ritter’s new NBCU pilot and Jim Rome’s deal with CBS Sports Radio. “The Rome” deal has made the talkshow host the net’s cornerstone and has integrated him into the CBS TV and Radio families. Says Feldman: “It’s important that artists have representation on their behalf that understands business issues extremely well and can help them achieve the best arrangements for their services — because you don’t necessarily get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate.”

Matt Galsor
Partner, entertainment group chairman, Greenberg Glusker
Columbia, 1999
Galsor structured the tentpole deals for Ubisoft’s “Splinter Cell” and “Assassin’s Creed,” which Variety cited as among the most significant pacts of 2012. Galsor’s entertainment resume also features deals for thesps, scribes, producers and helmers, including boffo names like Tom Cruise and James Cameron. “On graduation my options consisted of law school or homelessness. I sought advice from a lot of wise people, and after an agonizing weighing of the options, I went with law,” Galsor ribs. “I’ve regretted it ever since.”

Cliff Gilbert-Lurie
Senior partner, Ziffren Brittenham
UC Berkeley, 1976
Names like Sandra Bullock, Tina Fey, Hugh Laurie and Lena Dunham pepper Gilbert-Lurie’s contact list. His relationship with Dick Wolf spans a quarter century, and the attorney continues to garner deals for the creator of the “Law & Order” franchise — including his latest overall three-year pact at NBC. Gilbert-Lurie’s attraction to law began early — he read legal documents when other kids were into comicbooks — and for a while was inhouse lawyer at Disney, but left 26 years ago to join “Kenny (Ziffren) and Skip (Brittenham), the smartest guys out there. I thought it would be an incredible mentoring experience, and it was.”

Joel A. Katz
Chair, global entertainment and media practice, Greenberg Traurig
U. of Tennessee, 1969
Atlanta-based Katz’s music-biz expertise came in handy in repping NARAS and MusiCares for TV and record company deals, and in getting LARAS (the Latin Recording Academy) a six-year deal with Univision. “This transaction enabled LARAS to become a comprehensive institution representing Hispanic artists throughout the world,” says Katz. With colleague John Branca, Katz repped the Michael Jackson estate in assisting Sony/ATV in its $2.2 billion acquisition of EMI last year. He did employment deals for label heads, including L.A. Reid, Rob Stringer and Steve Barnett. Katz also partnered with Ron Burkle and Richard Beckman in Three Lions Entertainment, which will produce advertiser-embedded TV shows, and did Justin Timberlake’s deal for minority ownership of the Memphis Grizzlies.

Mickey Mayerson
Partner, deputy chairman, Loeb & Loeb
Columbia, 1981
Susan Zuckerman Williams
Partner, Loeb & Loeb
USC, 1986
Carolyn Hunt
Partner, Loeb & Loeb
Georgetown, 1996
A list of recent deals handled by Loeb & Loeb’s entertainment finance team headed by Mayerson, Williams and Hunt would run several pages. In the past 18 months they’ve closed more than 50 single-picture loan deals, facilitated dozens of financing transactions for high-net-worth individuals, and positioned themselves at the forefront of the recent explosion in P&A funding with deals for Endgame Releasing and several hedge funds. They’ve also acted as the administrative agent for Bank of America, Wells Fargo, One West Bank and Union Bank and other financial institutions in multi-picture credit facilities, and provided representation to such production companies as Relativity Media, Indian Paintbrush and Cold Spring Pictures. The team also made its presence felt in the digital space, negotiating the financing of Netflix original series “Hemlock Grove” and the upcoming “Narcos” and “Orange Is the New Black.” “We’re often brought in by our competitors to represent their clients in film finance transactions,” Mayerson says. “To me, that’s as high a testament as any to the type of lawyers we are, both in terms of quality and integrity.”

Bobby Rosenbloum
Co-chair, Atlanta entertainment and media practice, Greenberg Traurig
Harvard, 1994
Global licensing is Rosenbloum’s forte, showcased in his efforts for Microsoft’s new X-box Music service. Clients include Apple, Samsung, Clear Channel, Pandora, Harmonix and AT&T Mobility, and he serves as a primary music and entertainment counsel for Amazon.com — and with colleague Joel Katz for NARAS. “I am most proud of our representation of the Digital Media Assn. (comprising Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft and RealNetworks, among others) in the negotiation with the RIAA and (the National Music Publishers’ Assn.) of an agreement establishing the mechanical royalties for digital music services over the next five years,” he says.

David H. Sands
Partner, Sheppard Mullin
Boston U. 1987
Sands repped Encompass Digital Media in its acquisition by Court Square Capital Partners, CookieJar in its sale to DHX Media, and the new ICM Partners management team in the purchase of the agency from Rizvi-Traverse and Jeff Berg. He also assisted in the sale of ICM’s TV rights that included “Two and a Half Men,” “The Big Bang Theory” and “Modern Family.” The ICM agents’ buyout “reflects a countercyclical trend … and a better business model than the oligarchical models that have sprung out of other recent agency transactions and formations,” he says.

Matthew C. Thompson
Partner, co-chair of transactional entertainment group, Stroock & Stroock & Lavan
Hastings, 1991
Thompson, who has negotiated deals worth more than $1 billion, describes his trifecta of attorney expertise as film finance, mergers and acquisitions, and “everything else.” Thompson helped structure Leftfield Pictures’ recent acquisition of Sirens Media, a notable transaction since it was fully debt-financed by the banks involved. His biggest accomplishment over the last year, though, was Relativity’s recapitalization deal. The nine-figure pact “took a lot of work,” per Thompson, but for him, the job is about “bringing order to chaos.” “There’s this old cliche in showbiz about doing a deal on the back of a napkin,” Thompson says. “Well, my job is to make that deal make sense.”

Bruce Tobey
Senior counsel, O’Melveny & Myers
UCLA, 1984
Tobey brings deep studio experience to O’Melveny — he was exec veep at Paramount and COO of CBS Films — which came into play when he repped Sony in renewing its $200 million exclusive contract with Starz, giving the pay cabler rights to Sony theatricals through 2021. “Both as a lawyer and as an executive, I have always tried to find the proper balance between being a strong advocate for my side with the practical necessity of timely and successfully accomplishing the purpose at hand, whether that means closing a transaction or resolving a dispute,” he says.

Steve Warren
Partner, Hansen, Jacobson, Teller, Hoberman, Newman, Warren, Richman, Rush & Kaller
Harvard, 1985
The top entertainment lawyer reps some of the hottest names in Hollywood, including Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence, “who are having amazing years,” he notes. Following his acclaimed turn in Django Unchained, DiCaprio next stars in “The Great Gatsby” and then in “The Wolf of Wall Street,” Martin Scorsese’s corruption drama slated for a November release. Following the global success of The Hunger Games, Warren renegotiated Lawrence’s contract for the sequels. Other clients include Charlize Theron (“Fury Road”) and Colin Farrell (“Saving Mr. Banks”).

Alan Wertheimer
Partner, Jackoway Tyerman Wertheimer Austen Mandelbaum Morris & Klein
Stanford, 1972
Veteran entertainment lawyer Wertheimer joined the prominent firm in 1983 and specializes in repping actors, writers and directors. His recent key work includes deals for J.J. Abrams on his two “Star Trek” reboots and the 2015-slated “Star Wars: Episode VII,” Wes Anderson’s “Grand Budapest Hotel,” Jason Reitman’s “Labor Day” and Brian Helgeland’s “42.” “Even after 40 years of practice, I still enjoy representing newcomers such as David Michod, Gareth Evans and Michael Roskam, all ‘discovered’ at various film festivals,” he says.

Jonathan West
Counsel, O’Melveny & Myers
Dealmaker West led the team that repped Warner Bros. Television Group in its acquisition of Alloy Entertainment in 2012, a transaction quickly followed by DreamWorks Animation’s $155 million purchase of Classic Media. Outside showbiz, he negotiated deals for star restaurateur Thomas Keller (the French Laundry, Per Se, Bouchon). “Endorsement and licensing deals with chef Keller’s corporate partners, including All-Clad and Viking, allowed him to meaningfully participate in sales of products he helped design,” West says. Other clients include Jenna Elfman, Rob Lowe, Siegfried & Roy, the estate of Gene Roddenberry, Sundance Institute, Participant Media, Legendary Pictures, MGM and Open Road.

Profiles compiled by Hillary Atkin. Iain Blair, Ted Johnson, Todd Longwell, Michael Palumbo and Michelle Salemi.